The Real Food Guide

Bone Broth Basics: Make Bone Broth in a Slow Cooker


With my upcoming challenge to Live Below the Line, I’ll be stretching out my food budget by making bone broth. This isn’t so much a recipe, as it is a basic how-to for making bone broth in a slow cooker – it’s just that easy! (Check out the table at the end of this post for a comparison of some popular slow cookers).

You’ll want to make your own bone broth because it’s nutrient dense and full of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, that happen to be in the right ratios to support bone health. It’s also relatively inexpensive to make your own broth, especially if you’re already eating quality sources of meat (e.g. grass-fed beef, pastured pork and chickens or wild fish), because you can just save the leftover bones from your roasts and other meals. You can usually ask your local butcher for inexpensive soup bones as well.

Really, once you’ve tried making your own bone broth, you’ll never bother with stock-cubes and pre-made bouillon mixes again (they can be questionable not only because of the quality of animal bones used, but also because of the high amount of salt and MSG used in the flavoring). Want another reason to make your own broth? Homemade bone broth is also a great source of gelatin, which can help support joints and ease joint-pain.

Baby, You Gotta Stew Bone Broth Going

Baby, you've got a bone broth going

Arrested Development fans will know that Carl Weathers almost had it right.

In addition to saving your leftover bones, making bone broth is a great way to get more nutrients out of your vegetable scraps (e.g. tough broccoli stalks, carrot tops and peels) and even egg shells. Egg shells are also rich in minerals and the egg membranes have nutrients that are supportive for joint health.

Keep in mind though, that you’ll want to use good quality sources of meat and organic vegetable scraps if possible because you’ll be drawing out and concentrating the nutrients from these scraps.

Don’t Forget the Acid

Add a good glug of apple cider vinegar to your broth – the acidic nature of the vinegar helps to draw minerals out of the bones.

Oh No, My Bone Broth Didn’t Gel

You know you’ve got a good broth going when, after straining and cooling your broth, you have a good layer of fat on the top (you can keep this for cooking and adding flavor to vegetables), and it’s gelatinized. This of course, is a sign that there’s a plenty of gelatin in your broth!

But don’t stress if your bone broth doesn’t gel. It’s still good – chances are there are still plenty of nutrients in it, and it’s still worth drinking.

Here are a few reasons why your bone broth didn’t gel:

  1. You used too much water, or had too few bones to make your stock
  2. You didn’t simmer for long enough. Simmer for at least 12 hours, but you could simmer as long as 24 hours.
  3. The quality of bones wasn’t good enough to gel. For example, conventionally raised chicken bones often don’t gelatinize because they’re raised in cages and don’t have as much collagen/gelatin in their joints and bones.

Now, you should be all set to make your own broth!

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Bone Broth Basics: Make Bone Broth in a Slow Cooker

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 18 hours, 15 minutes

Yield: 2.5 quarts of broth

Bone Broth Basics: Make Bone Broth in a Slow Cooker


  • about 2 pounds of good quality bones
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp organic apple cider vinegar
  • sea salt
  • egg shells (optional)
  • vegetable ends (optional)


  1. Place the bones in a 3-quart slow-cooker. You can easily adjust this recipe to the size of your slow-cooker. The bones should fill up about 3/4 of the slow-cooker.
  2. Peel and cut your vegetables and garlic. If you are using organic produce, you can just roughly chop them. You can also add vegetable scraps and rinsed, crushed egg shells into your slow-cooker. You'll be straining these out before consuming the broth.
  3. Fill the slow-cooker with filtered water. Season with a generous amount of salt (about 1-1.5 tsp).
  4. Add 1-2 tablespoons (or one good 'glug') of organic apple cider vinegar.
  5. Set the slow-cooker on low and cook for 18-24 hours.
  6. Strain the broth through cheesecloth or a strainer and cool. A good broth will usually have a layer of fat on the top, and will gelatinize when thoroughly cool. The fat can be removed and used for cooking/flavoring vegetables.

Slow Cooker Comparison Table


Hamilton Beach 7-Quart Stay Or Go Slow Cooker
$$7Single clip latches lid to base for spill-resistant travel; Detachable lid and removable stoneware for dishwasher clean upHinged lid stays up for serving; Folding handles snap up for carrying fold down for storage; Perfect size for a 7 lb. chicken
Crock-Pot Cook' N Carry 6-Quart Oval Manual Portable Slow Cooker$$66-quart oval stoneware is perfect for seven or more people or a six pound roast; High, low, and warm settings are perfect for making chilis, stews, sauces and more; Lid-mounted locking system is easy to use for portability; Secure fit lid helps keep the unit sealed so your meal stays in when you go out; Measures approximately 15 by 10 by 15 inches
Cuisinart 3-In-1 Cook Central Multi-Cooker, Slow Cooker, Steamer$$$$6Ships in Certified Frustration-Free Packaging; One touch switches modes when recipe calls for combination cooking; Extra-large blue backlit LCD display with easy-to-read time and temperature settings; Removable 6-quart nonstick aluminum cooking pot; Glass lid with cool-touch handle for clear view and comfortable handling; Dishwasher-safe removable parts for effortless cleanup, Steaming rack included, Limited 3-year warranty
Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker, 6-Quart$$63 choices for easy, automatic cooking: probe, program and manual; Thermometer probe for meat; Clip-on spoon; Clip-tight gasket lid; Easy, automatic cooking
Crock-Pot 4-Quart Cook and Carry Slow Cooker$$44-quart capacity feeds 4 or more people; Lid-mounted locking system; Removable oval stoneware and lid are dishwasher-safe; Convenient warm setting; Great for potlucks, family gatherings, tailgating, parties and more
West Bend 5-Quart Oblong-Shaped Slow Cooker$$5Oblong-shaped slow cooker with adjustable temperature control; Generous 5-quart capacity for entertaining or dinner with the family; Oven-, range-top-, and freezer-safe cooking pot; glass lid included; Heating base doubles as a nonstick mini griddle; dishwasher-safe parts; Measures 7-1/4 by 12-3/4 by 8-3/4 inches; 1-year limited warranty
DeLonghi Stainless-Steel Programmable 5-Quart Slow Cooker$$$5Just set it and go with the 10-hr digital countdown timer; perfect for long work days or busy days running around with the kids at sports practice; Enjoy the ease of the servable ceramic bowl, take it straight to the table, so there is less to clean!; You can take pleasure in the ample counterspace you'll still enjoy with the sleek compact design; Feed the family or even a whole dinner party with the 5-qt capacity; Be sure that you will always cook food at the perfect temperature with high and low settings and a 2-hr keep warm function
Proctor-Silex 4-Quart Slow Cooker$4Removable stoneware for easy cleaning; Dishwasher safe stoneware; Keep warm setting; Dishwasher safe glass lid
Calphalon 7-Quart Digital Slow Cooker$$$$7Auto-setting cooks for 2 hours on High, then switches to Low for the remainder of the cook time; 24-hour digital timer automatically switches to Warm at the end of the cooking cycle; Easy-to-read, high contrast LCD display; Dishwasher-safe 7 Qt. ceramic crock; The Calphalon Kitchen Electrics collection features our exclusive Opti-Heat System. Designed to provide accurate temperature control and even heat delivery, Opti-Heat ensures that foods cook evenly and thoroughly.
Frigidaire Professional Stainless 7-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker$$$7Spacewise Design; Pro-Select LED Display; Pro-Select One-Touch Options; Fully Programmable; Stylish Stainless-Steel Exterior

Vivian is the founder of the Real Food Guide and a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) who believes that each individual needs to go on their own Real Food Journey to find what works. While she herself eats a diet of real food (aka a paleo diet), some people may find that they can flourish on a vegetarian diet instead. However, universal to optimal health and well-being is good quality, nutrient-dense, Real Food.

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April 25 |

55 thoughts on “Bone Broth Basics: Make Bone Broth in a Slow Cooker

  1. […] and behold, all of these minerals are available in the ratios found in bone broth! A hot, steaming bowl of broth isn’t exactly a welcome summertime treat, but there are plenty […]

  2. Guinnevere says:

    Do you have any tips for WHICH veggie scraps can be used? I save my onion ends and peels, carrot bits, and celery remnants, but what about zucchini stems, corn cobs, etc? I read once that brassicas will make your broth bitter, but I generally have a lot of brassica waste (and I live in an apartment so I don’t compost).

    • I would certainly recommend organic vegetables if you are going to be using the scraps. As for which ones, it may take some experimentation to determine which ones will impart a pleasant flavor to your broth. I know from experience, that you might not want to use the stems of bitter greens (e.g. spinach), as it will definitely impart a bitter flavor to the broth. Carrot peels, onion ends and celery remnants all work well. I can see zucchini stems working also, but I’m unsure about corn cobs.

  3. Chuck says:

    Just out of curiosity why do you peel the carrot? BTW, that’s the first time I’ve seen egg shells. I’m assuming the vinegar leaches the minerals from the shells? Good recipe! I’m making some right now!

    • Good question Chuck – I think I do it out of habit, now that you mentioned it. If you’ve got organic carrots, a little rinse should do. And yes, with the egg shells – the vinegar helps leach the minerals out. I just fish them out after, and you’ll notice that the bones and shells are a lot softer.

  4. Jeff Woiton says:

    One way to cut carrots to expose more of the interior, and thus get more of the nutrients exposed and available, is the roll-cut.

    Take a standard carrot and cut it on a bias, around 45° to the core. Rotate it longitudinally by 90° and cut it at 45° again. Go up the carrot making 45° cuts and turning it 90° after each cut. You’ll end up with some good-sized pieces and may also note that a lot of the carrot’s interior is now exposed to your broth.

    Bon Appetit!

  5. […] an overnight simmer. Here’s a good starter recipe. If you have a slow cooker here’s a recipe for […]

  6. Five Things Friday 1.3.14 says:

    […] I went to my local butcher and purchased 3 lbs of “beef bone soup” bones. I threw the bones in my crockpot, added a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and covered the bones with water. Murphy went crazy in the morning looking for the source of meaty goodness (the smell can be strong). I let it cook on low for 20 hours or so, strained it, and let it cool. I then transferred the broth to ice cube trays to keep them longer. The soup bones can be used for more than one batch, so I made two batches total. That’s well over 10 ice cube trays full of bone broth. I think I’ll be set for a while! I plan on drinking a cup before my dinners. Mmmmm soup. I mean noodle soup. I mean soup! {a la Joey from Friends}. One of the tutorials I used is here. […]

  7. Cal says:

    Hi Vivian,

    Thank you for the recipe. I have one question for you. Would you specify about how much “a generous amount of salt” is please? Generous to me could be a couple tablespoons… or a cup. Help!

    • Hi Cal – Sorry, I realize I slipped into my parents’ way of describing recipes: ‘You add about this much!” So I just measured out how much I would usually add (generally, I cup my hand and scoop some out or shake an amount into my hand before adding), and it ends up being only about 1/2 tsp to a tsp. Certainly not in the ‘cups’ range ;)

      • Cal says:

        Ha! To be on the “safe side” I “only” put in 1½ tbsp (= ~4 to 5 tsp) thinking if you tell me more I’ll just chuck it in later. Ah well, it’s just as well that I love salt.

        I’ll let you know what the end result’s like. Many thanks for your speedy reply, appreciated.

        • To be fair, you’re probably fine, especially if you use your broth as a base for other soups and stews! Give it a taste at the end of the cooking time, and I doubt you’ll be saying “I can’t drink this brine!” ;)

          • Cal says:

            Wow! Thanks for the recipe Vivian.
            I decided to have half a cup of the broth before it cooled down too much. Sure it was salty, but what a beautiful taste, wonderful! I would say it was about three times more salty than optimum; so next time I’ll use “1½ tsp sea salt.” You might want to add an “about” amount to your recipe above.

            Barring the bones (and I didn’t use eggshells) the stuff in the strainer looked so good I decided to “selectively” eat it (i.e. removing vegetable ends and such). That was REALLY enjoyable! The only problem is that I was looking forward to my main meal but now feel replete.

          • Thanks for letting me know, Cal. I was actually wondering today how your broth turned out so I’ll update the recipe so that future recipe seekers will have a better idea how much salt to add. If you’re looking to beef up a meal using your broth, check out my recipe for Leek Soup, or Beef Stew; both use bone broth as a base.

        • Trish says:

          I make bone broth without any salt but I do use a lot of garlic and pepper. For anyone who should not eat a lot of salt because of high blood pressure or other reasons this tastes great!

  8. Dixie says:

    Good information..thank you!

  9. Leah says:

    Do I need to thaw the bones first or just throw them in and get started?

  10. Nancy says:

    Every attempt I made bone broth and started out with the vegetables in the broth, the end result was disgusting tasting. This was for 24+ hour bone broth. I wound up not making bone broth for almost a year. I recently read another article on bone broth and have another attempt going, with only adding the vegetables and aromatics during the last few hours of cook time. Hope that works out better.

    • Typically, I throw in carrots and onions, which add sweetness. Made the mistake of throwing in spinach stalks once in the beginning and it was quite bitter.

    • Candy says:

      Try using knuckle bones (beef). Then roast them in 350 oven for 40 minutes before putting them in the crock pot. Makes for a very rich dark broth with lots of flavor.

  11. TerryM says:

    Hi all! It may have been covered in the comments, but cannot find. Is the preference for leftover bones from cooked meat? Or raw bones for making the bone broth? Combination of both?

    • I’ve done both leftover bones from roasts and raw bones. With raw bones, you may find better flavor if you do roast them first (450F for about 1/2 an hour or so), but in a pinch, just throwing them in with everything raw works too.

  12. LeviS says:

    Hi! I just made some good-looking bone broth from %100 grass-fed beef knuckles. Afterward, there were still soft chunks of fat clinging onto the bones themselves. Is this fat good too, just like what separated from the broth? Can this fat be rendered?

    • From 100% grass-fed beef knuckles? It’s all good! You can collect all the fat and use it as is to flavor your cooking, or render it. (Is it bad that my mouth is watering at the thought of a good broth? I should fire up my slow cooker tonight!)

  13. Leslie says:

    Is there a difference in the chicken versus the beef broth in regards to helping joints, I.e. Arthritis? Is the beef broth more beneficial? Thanks

    • I’ve heard from a local farmer that smaller animals (chickens, pork), produce a broth with more gelatin compared to larger animals (beef). So if you’re looking for joint care, you probably want to stick to chicken or pork broth over the beef.

  14. […] Bone Broth Basics: Make Bone Broth […]

  15. […] good quality bone broth has amazing healing properties for the gut. Bones contain significant amounts of the amino acids […]

  16. […] Bone Broth Basics: Make Bone Broth in a Slow Cooker by Vivian Cheng @ The Real Food Guide […]

  17. Karin Wagner says:

    Noting a typo….
    The article states that conventionally raised chickens “don’t have gelatin in their joints and bones.” Collagen is the fiber in connective tissue (including bones and joints) that melts into gelatin. Also it would be more correct to say “don’t have as much collagen” rather than implying none. (Though I don’t know if anyone has really tested this idea so I can’t speak to whether the facts are correct.)
    Thanks for the overall great article!

  18. […] Bone broth in a slow cooker from The Real Food Guide* […]

  19. Shar says:

    New to bone broth. :-). My question; in the slow cooker ( I’m afraid to leave a pot on the gas stove for so long if I’m not home) how do you stop it from boiling? Sometimes making other stuff in my SC, even on low, starts to boil. I read somewhere that my bone broth should be heated without boiling it. THanks in advance.

  20. N. Morrill says:

    First simple recipe I’ve found, thank you.

  21. […] Beef Chili • Pork Tenderloin Chili Verde • Sweet Potato Turkey Chili (pictured above) • How to Make Beef Bone Broth • How to Make Chicken Bone Broth • Restorative Vegetable […]

  22. LOVE this recipe! So I included it in my contributor post – “50 Fabulous Grain-Free Slow Cooker Meals” – over at Keeper of the Home. I hope it sends lots of new friends your way! :)

  23. Mike says:

    Thank you for this recipe! I’m currently roasting some bones in the oven, in preparation for my slow cooker. I’m doing a batch in the slow cooker and one on the hob. How long does it keep for in the fridge? Can you freeze it?

  24. Bryn Morgan says:

    To SHAR questions on Feb 22 ,
    I was hoping someone would answer your questions. So I’ll ask mine & maybe we’ll get lucky. :)
    a) Is it ok if the bone broth comes to a boil? (I’ve heard don’t and I’ve heard that you must.)
    b) How do you keep slow cooker from coming to a boil? (The first time I made bone broth was 3 days ago). I did one batch in a large Crock Pot and one in a pressure cooker on slow cooker setting. The Crock Pot did boil, even on low–the way I dealt with it was to periodically turn it off for about an hour. I did cook it overnight, but set my timer and omg-it was boiling. Luckily I had toped off the water, set it in a relatively safe area, and got up to check on it. Next time I’ll just turn it completely off, unplug it, and wrap some old towels around it (to keep it hot) and start again in the morning. Note: I’m a firefighter of 23 years. -Bryn

    • Ed Chester says:

      Hello Bryn,
      I made my first bone broth yesterday in my slow cooker (I don’t know how many quarts-I use it for pulled pork, chicken and beef-who cares). I used Ox tails, leg bones for marrow and others for the broth. The bones weren’t organic and I added no salt or vegetables as this was an experiment. My interest at this point is solely for the gelatin and collagen content. I cooked it at the lowest setting for around twenty-eight hours (one restart from twenty hours). The cooker was filled with bones and I added water until full. The mix eventually came to a slow boil. After the twenty-eight hours of cooking and upon removing the bones I immediately saw that the bone centers were gone and the vertebral bones of the Ox tails were Jurassic in appearance and soft. After final cooling of the mix in the refrigerator I noticed that three distinct layers had separated. The top layer was white (pure fat). The middle layer was a mix of beef remnants from the Ox tails and white fat, The bottom layer was a brown/olive drab colored gel. In fact very gelatinous which was what I was looking for. In terms of taste, the broth was somewhat bland with an overwatered taste. I was not disappointed as this is what I was expecting. If boiling causes harm in no way could I see a problem. As I said earlier I am interested solely in gelatin and collagen. I’ll see what this does for me as is and after a month I’ll add garlic, celery and carrots and continue to experiment. I suppose I should say that I am sixty-seven, sort of pushed into retirement and am doing some work on my home which is particularly hard on my body hence the interest in gelatin and collagen.


  25. ashley says:

    I forgot to rinse my egg shells. Did I screw up my broth????

  26. Laur says:

    Does it make a big difference if the broth is cooked on high for half the time?

  27. Barbara says:

    This is the 3rd time for making bone broth….just with a roasted chicken…after removing a lot of the meat. This time I decided to let the broth remain in the crockpot for over 24 hrs…still on the med setting. I sure hope this is ok, as I have been using the broth to feed my kitty….she laps it up. Also been scooping out cups to drink during the day. It’s so good. I am hoping that this is ok to do since it hasn’t been on the highest setting (which I used the first 24 hrs) Does anyone know? In the past I just cool it down and put it in one cup bags in the freezer to use for cooking.

  28. Wendy says:

    After the bone broth cools and congeals should you scrape off the fat layer on top and dispose of it? Or is that full of goodness?

  29. Cam says:

    Thank you for sharing these I hope I could make one when I’m not too busy anymore. Because of my schedule, I got Au Bon Broth. I’m drinking it and I like it so far. It’s tasty and it’s organic too. I love that it’s helping me with my sleeping issues and I’m now much more energetic than before.

  30. I’m wondering what your thoughts on using a pressure cooker are. I’ve had good luck making beef bone broth with my pressure cooker. It only takes about an hour and the bones are practically crumbling in that amount of time. I’ve also had good results with that amount of gelatin that goes into the broth. Thanks for the interesting article!

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